it is with some difficulty that we choose how to live our lives. when we are young we pick up so much from our parents and friends, learning important lessons through trial and error but largely imitating those around us. for awhile we have the feeling there is some bigger picture we will soon be part of, but as we go through high school it appears that no one is in on the secret. maybe we are to be kept permanently in the dark, and should make our own truth?

by the time we are in college, (whether or not we realize it) most of us have decided what sort of person we want to be. we may not have a career picked out yet, but the specific route we take to reach our goals is secondary to the adults we are already becoming. for years we have thought we know it all, and how harshly or gently we’ve been proven wrong has shaped our characters. influences from childhood play a part, but in the end our own decisions determine how we will look at the world and approach life on a day-to-day basis. how often do you stop to question your motivation for the choices you make?

i love Jesus. his example is the only worthwhile motivation i have. i have been given opportunities that many may not have received: though i’ve experienced many reasons to doubt God’s love, few have been strong enough to shake the foundation built by growing up in a loving Christian home. as most americans, i have been to church; and as most americans, i have usually missed the point. but important truths have worked their way into my head, and God has shown himself in my relationships and life. as such, my “big picture” decision is to follow him as best i can, learn more about him, and share his love with others.

maybe you can say the same. but is this how you feel every day? i certainly do not make all of my decisions based on what God would want me to do – granted, no man except Jesus ever has or will. but even taking it as a given that i cannot do everything right, it is beyond question that i have good days and bad days. while i am alive my pride and self-centeredness will never be fully defeated, so oftentimes i act selfishly. there are times when i ignore God completely, choosing to practice atheism for a moment or a day at a time. usually when i notice this, i try to fight it. and since i know i’ll never be perfect, the fight must be what it’s all about.

sometimes i have a passion for living like Jesus and loving people, sometimes i do not. i run hot and cold. the trouble with being hot is it requires you to get over yourself, trust imperfect people, and take risks. much more often than any of us would like, this results in getting burned. but when you retreat to the cold stubbornness of atheism, you wind up cutting yourself off from the only things in life that are meaningful. if you convince yourself that God and love are false, what are you left with? no hope for the future and nothing to care for except yourself. you may not get burned, but there’s no joy in being frozen.

i do not think i am much different from anyone else. everyone makes good and bad decisions. we have all been hurt, we have all hurt others, and we have all at some point decided to give up. but this, a loss of spirit, is the worst route of all. when loving gets us scorched and hating makes us numb, oftentimes we take a middle road – think of God when you need him, push him aside otherwise. turn wishy-washy if a serious question is raised among friends, and hold down feelings that might start an argument. finally you’ve got an easy way…live your life gently, try to be nice, and everything will be fine most of the time.

is grinding off all your interesting edges and learning to be “fine” the big secret? are careful planning, getting along and having fun once in awhile the meaning of life? true love is real and loving others is a necessary risk unless you want to live half-dead. i have seen hints of joy and they did not come from killing my emotions and being my nicest and quietly not bothering anyone. nor does lasting happiness result from acting stupid, being a jerk and pleasing myself regardless of everyone’s feelings. God is the source of love and joy and today, more of him is what i’ll seek. tomorrow i may feel like giving up but by God’s grace, i pray i’ll fight it.

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